Galileo Church

Quirky church for spiritual refugees. Who would Jesus love?

Our missional priorities:
1. We do justice for LGBTQ+ humans, and support the people who love them.
2. We do kindness for people with mental illness and in emotional distress, and celebrate neurodiversity.
3. We do beauty for our God-Who-Is-Beautiful.
4. We do real relationship, no bullshit, ever.
5. We do whatever it takes to share this good news with the world God still loves.

Trying to find us IRL?
Mail here: 6563 Teague Road, Fort Worth TX 76140
Worship here: 5860 I-20 service road, Fort Worth 76119, 5 pm Sundays

To the spiritual refugees from the United Methodist Church


February 26, 2019

To the dearly beloved spiritual refugees from the United Methodist Church; those who bear the image of God in your beautiful, queer selves; siblings for whom Christ died and was raised; those inhabited by God’s own Spirit:

From we who have experienced the nauseating grief of exclusion and expulsion from the churches that raised us; and have experienced the reconciling power of the gospel in this community of belonging in Jesus’ name called Galileo Church:

(Immediate) grace to you, and (eventual) peace, in the name of God our Mother-Father and Jesus our Brother-Savior.

We know what is happening to you. Not just because we’ve been obsessively and prayerfully following the proceedings of your General Conference, but because we’ve lived it. We named our little church after Galileo Galilei in part because he was excommunicated. “Devout and kicked out, just like most of us,” we tweet ruefully on his birthday each year.

To be fair, most of us were not formally excommunicated from the denominations of our youth. But churches have ways of letting you know you’re not welcome. Sometimes they just wear you down by taking endless little bites of your dignity, or the dignity of someone you love. Sometimes they actually vote on your identity, or the identity of someone you love. Either way, you get shoved to the margins, pushed out of bounds, even though you have begged to stay, even though you have spent yourself in service of the institution that now closes its heart to you.

We know. Our hearts are so heavy, with you and for you and alongside you and on your behalf. It is a familiar grief our hearts know well.

But also – listen! – there is a congratulation to be issued from out here beyond their boundary. He has been calling out to you, as he called to us: “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23). 

What we have been learning together at Galileo Church is that Jesus has always been out here, on the margins, out of bounds, with the refugees that religious institutions churn out. We thought we were losing him when we lost our churches; we all did. But there came such sweet delight when we stopped struggling to regain what we had lost and instead took stock of where we were: out here where our blessedly othered messiah has set up a table among the outcasts and the losers and the freaks and the queer. Among us!

So we’re writing to say, don’t be afraid. Do take your time to grieve, because what you’re going through really hurts. Do find a therapist who will express shock at the institutional abuse you have endured. Do guard yourself from reading any of the so-called “reconciling” justifications that will be endlessly presented by people with the privilege to still be insiders in days to come. But don’t be afraid. You are about to discover more Jesus than you know what to do with. He’s out here, waiting, arms flung open. 

And so are we. And so are any number of little remnant communities-of-belonging-in-Jesus’-name just like us, perhaps even near to where you live. We know for sure there are plenty of spiritual refugees where you live. Churches are in a bad habit of making more of them. Can you find them? Can we help?

At least this: our prayers on your behalf are endless, and are carried to God’s ear by the Spirit that intercedes with sighs too deep for words. Mostly we just mutter, “on earth as it is in heaven,” as a mantra of longing, of insistence, of hope. For that is the prayer Jesus gave to us, we who are starved and parched for justice. It belongs to us now more than ever, out here on the margins. Come on out. Blessed are you.

With love and kinship – the co-conspirators and friends of Galileo Church


January 31, 2019

To the holy (and wholly) beloveds of Galileo Church,

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Mother-Father and our Messiah Jesus. I hope this letter finds you dwelling in the peace and power of God’s own Spirit, confident and comfortable in your own image-of-God self.

It’s the end of January, and this month has been filled with conversations of the “What comes next?” kind. Our Missional Logistics Team and Spiritual Care Team carved out significant time to rise up to the meta-level and ask the big questions: Why does Galileo Church exist, still, and what does that say about what comes next? What is God calling us away from, and toward, for the year to come?

The Why of Galileo, and What’s In the Arrow

We’ve got a terrific mission statement, the one about “seeking and sheltering spiritual refugees.” We’re still doing that with eager energy. And when we ask each other, “Why are youpart of Galileo and its collective mission to seek and shelter spiritual refugees?” the answers go deep. 

“Because I was a spiritual refugee, and I needed to be shaken from my certainty about what – and who – God wants and doesn’t want.”

“Because I don’t want to raise my kids to hate church and be anxious about God’s judgment.”

“Because this church gives me hope, and hope is scarce these days.” 

“Because I don’t want to take for granted that this community will always be here. I’m committed to help it keep going.”

“Because what’s happening here is so fucking beautiful.”

One thing that comes up a lot is that Galileo Church feels rare. It’s rare to find a community that welcomes every person’s whole self as an intentional echo of Jesus’s ministry to (and affinity for) those who have traditionally been excluded. It’s rare to find a community that is so safe and brave for many who feel endangered in other environs. It’s rare to feel so connected to people you’ve just met, but who somehow know you better than anyone else. It’s precious, because it’s rare. And therefore beautiful. And therefore special, valuable, worthwhile, beloved…

But there’s another thing we say, too, which is that we wish it were not so rare.We wish that everybody knew that God’s love (not God’s judgment or disapproval) is the engine that powers the universe. We wish that everybody who wants one could have a community of belonging in Jesus’s name. We wish that every church could see how to open their heart, and their structure, to the ones who have been left out or kicked out. We wish this kind of Christian community and practice could be normalized– the opposite of rare!

If you were drawing it, it would look like this, maybe:

     rare/special/beautiful   —->   normalized/available/beautiful

(Yeah, I made that in Word. You can pretend to be impressed when you see me.)

And if that’s what we think God wants, too – indeed, that our very desires are being shaped by God’s Spirit that inhabits us – then we need to figure out what goes inside the arrow. Like, what’s the work? What’s needed for Galileo Church to move from rare to normalized? 

But before we get into that arrow, consider two important questions raised by our church leaders: (1) Are we creating safe space, or are we changing the world? Is it even possible to do both?Because world-changing work is not inherently safe, as Jesus found out. And (2) What about the intimacy of relationship that we enjoy, which is integral to our experience of safety and love? If we lose that intimacy, haven’t we lost a big part of our identity? You could redraw my fabulous graphic like this:

      rare / safe / intimate   —->   normalized / less safe / less intimate

So it seems to our church leaders that the content of the arrow – the nature of our movement from “rare” to “normalized” – is twofold. One thing is, for the rare thing to become normalized, we have to be even more intentionally invitationalthan ever. We have to do church in public, demonstrating by our life together how lovely it is when God’s own love gets ahold of us. We have to ask people (beloveds, neighbors, strangers, enemies) to take a look, “Come and see,” give us a chance to demonstrate what’s possible with the Spirit of the living Christ among us.

Second thing: at the same exact time, as the rare thing becomes invitational,we have to tend more carefully than ever to our relational infrastructure. We have to apply our energies to shoring up what’s working to make us stronger together, and let go anything that’s not. I like to think of this as serving the healthof the church. Rather than broken or dysfunctional stuff getting all our attention (and time and money and whatever), we let broken and dysfunctional stuff go and serve the health.I’ll say more about what that looks like below.

Take a minute and think about the “why” of your engagement with Galileo Church. How does the movement from “rare” to “normalized” make you feel? What thoughts/questions/objections/enthusiasms are rising up?

For 2019, the Missional Logistics Team Has 3 Big Ideas About Being Invitational

Yep, three. On the road from “rare” to “normalized,” we think 3 things will move us along. Remember, the MLT works consistently on our Missional Priorities, of which we have four: 

We do justice for LGBTQ+ people.

We do kindness for people with mental illness, or in emotional distress; and we celebrate neurodiversity.

We do beauty for our God-Who-Is-Beautiful.

We do real relationship, no bullshit, ever.

Thing One: Let’s expand Missional Priority #1 to reflect a new understanding. 

-- Let’s expand #1 to read, “We do justice for LGBTQ+ people, and support the people who love them.” We know that many people end up at Galileo because their kid, or their spouse, or their cousin, or their friend is on the queer rainbow. We’re doing a good job supporting those folks, and turning them into strong allies. Way to go, church! 

Thing Two: Let’s be more intentional about Missional Priority #2. 

-- Let’s invite neurodiverse people in our church to help us be more intentional about the kindness we do. The MLT and pastoral staff need input and education. We’re ready to learn from people for whom “celebrating neurodiversity” is an important part of being with Galileo Church.

-- We’ll seek understanding through public meetings, private conversations, written statements, artwork – whatever works best for your lovely, quirky brain to share yourself with us. We’ll announce an initial gathering soon (this winter/spring), and that’ll be your cue to share away.

Thing Three: Let’s ADD a 5th Missional Priority! Yeah, we can do that.

-- Let’s announce very deliberately that this is the year we begin to turn our church inside-out, from focusing on what happens among the people who are already here to sharing all that we’ve got with people who are not here yet. Let’s become invitationalin nature – not just individually, but as an inside-out community.

-- The wording we like goes, “We do whatever it takes to share this good news with the world God still loves.” We hope you like it, too, and that you’ll find it as compelling as the first four missional priorities have been for several years. 

-- And then, let’s explore new territory by live-broadcasting our worship services online every Sunday.I KNOW. That’s not like anything we’ve ever done before. It’s not something I imagined I would ever want to do. But when our church leaders sat together and reflected on how lonely and unloved we felt beforethe gospel according to Galileo, and how healthy and hopeful we feel afterthe gospel according to Galileo, it seems absurd and maybe even mean to keep it to ourselves. I keep reminding myself, church leaders hated Gutenberg’s printing press half a millennium ago – new technology felt unsafe for the church they loved. But here we are, half a millennium later – and some church leaders (me, mainly!) still feel threatened by new technology. Maybe…we should learn from experience we’ve gained in half a millennium? Imagine the possibilities…

-- Imagine: What if a handful of people in Denton, or West Fort Worth, or North Dallas, could get together locally and watch Galileo’s worship together? What if we could send an ambassador from our place to their “watch party” on Sunday evening with a little box of communion and prayer cards for the wall and stuff for the reflection station? What if farflung strangers could worship and experience this rare, beautiful, lifesaving gospel along with us,without having to traverse the whole damn metroplex?

-- Imagine: What if churches in other places that want to be inclusive but don’t know how could learn by watching us?

-- Imagine: What if Andrea G, at home with her foot in a cast, or Kim, at the hospital with her sick mom, never had to miss another cello Sunday? or any Sunday?

-- Imagine: What if LGBTQ+ Christians (and the people who love them) in rural places, or small towns, or other places where this gospel is not available, could find hope online with us?

-- Imagine: What if people whose mental illness or emotional distress truly keeps them from participating in community could find companionship with us, without the toxic side effects of crowds?

-- Imagine: What if, in God’s good time, several “watch parties” consolidated into “Galileo 2”? We would not be planting a new church from scratch (#tbtGod), but instead letting worship drive new relationships, and relationships drive new infrastructure for which Galileo could provide staff, structure, experience, and financial help. I’m tired of meeting people who would loveto have what we have, but can’t get all the way to the BRB, and just saying, “I’m so sorry.” I want to say something else, something hopeful, something invitational. Don’t you?

-- We understand there are dangers and downsides… and that’s why we’ll be moving slowly, with a team of people dedicated to thinking through every contingency the best we can… and alerting the whole church every time we take steps toward public broadcast. Yes, we’ve thought about protecting every worshiper’s privacy. We’ve considered the financial cost. We’re working on copyright issues. We’re aware that there are relational complications, like, in what sense are we pastorally responsible for people who watch us online? and how do we do “real relationship, no bullshit, ever” across the worldwide web? We’re praying and thinking, thinking and praying. We’d be happy for you to think and pray alongside us, for real.

For 2019, the Spiritual Care Team Has 3 Big Ideas About Serving the Health

Yep, three. Imagine that. Remember that the SCT is responsible for the shepherding and spiritual care of Galileo Church’s people. Toward that end, they keep watch over G-groups of all kinds, from living room Bible studies to Dungeons & Dragons adventures. 

Thing One: Let’s celebrate and shore up the health of our covenantal G-groups.

-- We have more and more people interested in covenantal G-groups – the ones that meet for 10 weeks at a time, with more or less stable membership, to share life and deepen discipleship of Jesus. This system has never been healthier, and we want it to be more so. 

-- We’re deploying moito help each G-group function at its peak. I’ll be coming around to lead each group through “Listening Is an Act of Love” this spring, to help all of us think about how we… well, how we love each other by listening. J

-- We’re training more facilitators and conveners, and granting Sabbath time to all who ask for it, so that responsibility for these groups is widely shared and we don’t wear people out.

Thing Two: Let’s let go of groups or events that are using up people’s energy disproportionately to the group’s attendance.

-- There, I said it. Some of our “open” G-groups (where all are invited and only the leaders are explicitly committed to attend) have been poorly attended, some of them for a long time. We need to let some of our very gifted facilitators off the hook for keeping those meetings going. 

-- Specifically, we’re letting go of Thrive (for LGBTQ+ young adults), Welcome to My Brain (for people with mental health diagnoses), and God-Parenting-Support (for parents whose kids have come out). We have loved allthese groups, and are indebted to their leaders (thanks again, Brandi and Deanne, Hannah and Eleanor, Jeana and Melina!). We’re quite sure those groups served their purpose at the time they were developed, and that many people have been helped through them.

-- We think the attendance at those groups went downas attendance at our strong covenantal G-groups went up. People are finding supportive friends around dinner tables and Bible study. Because that’s working, people have less need for the specified support groups.

-- We also know that people who need specific kinds of support are asking Spiritual Care Team members, and myself, who they can talk to. We’re doing a good job of connecting people for commiseration or empowerment or a listening ear. If you need connection like that, pleaseask. It’s one of our best things.

Thing Three: Let’s reinvent some things we’ve done for a long time to see if we can make them better. Specifically:

-- Let’s reinvent Bible & Beer as a once-a-month celebration, at a bar, with Bible-reading friends. The first Tuesday of the month sounds good to us, 7-9 pm at Torchy’s in the Highlands. For some of us, B&B is a dear habit that we love; but once a month will scratch our itch. And maybe more people will come if it’s a rare opportunity. And oh, that queso. J#firsttime: Tuesday, Feb. 5. 

-- Let’s reinvent G-Coffeeby bringing it to the Big Red Barn, 3-4:30 pm each Sunday. We’re making a coffee station in the Quiet Room. A Spiritual Care Team member will be present each week just to listen and connect people. It’ll be simple, no frills, but everything you need for caffeinated companionship. And easier to find. #firsttime: Sunday, Feb. 10.

-- Let’s reinvent going out to dinner together after worship by having occasional dinners at the Big Red Barn. Instead of pretending that “the whole church” can go to a restaurant every Sunday (which hasn’t been true for a long time), let’s make dinner available at the BRB once in a while. We know the whole church won’t stay, and that’s okay. We want to provide a leisurely opportunity for people to hang out, play board games, eat and drink. We’re thinking of calling it “Second Sunday Scruffy Supper,” or S4. (S4 – get it? Come on, that’s funny.) Only a few people will bring food – crockpot soup? chili? sandwiches? pizza? – and anyone who wants to stay can stay, and help with a quick setup and cleanup. #firsttime: Sunday, March 10.

Look, We Know This Is a Lot.

We’re committed to communicating and re-communicating these things till we’re blue in the face. Because it all feels important, and because our church leaders aren’t really interested in dragging the church somewhere it doesn’t want to go. In worship on Sunday 2/3, I’ll talk through this stuff and we’ll sing about going where God calls us. The MLT, the SCT, and the pastoral staff hope that we’ll have a generous consensus around these Big Ideas, and that we’ll be ready to move together into God’s beautiful future.

It’s a turning point, y’all. I have a feeling that someday we’ll be saying, “And then, in 2019, you just would not believe what God had in mind…” I feel so ready to see it unfold. Get impatient with me, okay? 

And may God add God’s blessing to our idea-having, plan-making, future-leaning work. Thanks be to God for a church that is more curious about the future than nostalgic about the past. Thanks be to God for you!

                        Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,

                        and prosper for us the work of our hands—

                        O prosper the work of our hands!(Psalm 90:17)

peace – Katie H, lead evangelist

To the dearly beloved queer people of ACU

To the dearly beloved queer children of God, especially those connected with Abilene Christian University;

From the co-conspirators and friends of Galileo Church, a gathering of God’s faithful in the suburbs of Fort Worth;

Grace to you, and peace, from God our Mother-Father and our brother-Savior Jesus.

We hope this letter finds you feeling strong in the strength of God’s power; but we fear that may not be the case. Your identity, wherever you fall on the LGBTQ+ rainbow, has been under assault during this last little while. It’s likely that your school and church communities don’t feel like safe places for you right now.

That’s why we’re writing to you. We have news for you, and we’re hoping you’ll receive it as the best news you’ve ever heard: God’s love is real, and God’s love is for you, and God’s love is worth it. (We’ll say more about “worth it” in a minute.)

Just so you know, there are lots of people at Galileo Church who come from the same theological background that you do. Yeah, we’ve got a lot of former CofC-ers in our number. (A bunch of Baptists, too, and you might find this hard to believe, but there’s not that much difference. At least, not in the way those groups have historically thought about LGBTQ+ people.) We were Christians who thought we knew that God likes and approves of some people more than others; and that God dislikes and disapproves of the way some of us feel in our hearts, in our bones, in our spirits. Some of us tried for years (and prayed, and prayed, and prayed) to become other than we are. Some of us even tried to hurt ourselves to get rid of the constant pain of thinking God didn’t want us.

And then we found out the truth: that God’s love, rather than God’s judgment, is the force that powers the entire exquisite, expanding universe; and God’s love is not meted out in stingy little portions to some people and withheld completely from others. God knows exactly who each of us is, and God is so extra that God loves us like a freakin’ waterfall of love, just as God made us. And God, as you no doubt know, made some of us QUEER. And fabulous. And glittery. And gorgeous. And did we mention fabulous?

So, listen, there are a couple of things we would really like you to hear from us, as sort of sub-points to the main point about God’s love for you.

1.  You are not an issue or a problem or a pawn in a theological or institutional debate. You are a human being, made imago Dei – in the very image of God. You don’t have to sit still and react politely when people all around you are debating your right to exist here in all the fullness of your LGBTQ+ identity. You can argue, or ask a friend to stick up for you, or leave, or curse a blue streak and then leave. Any of those paths is honorable.

If you have the strength right now to remind people that you exist, you splendidly queer Christian, that’s great. If you don’t, give yourself a break. Please take it from people who have known the existential exhaustion of having to defend their right to breathe the air we are all sharing: sometimes you can’t even, and that’s okay. Because we’ve got your back! (Better than that – Jesus has your back! See sub-point #2.)

2.  You do not have to feel grateful to us, or any of your friends or family, for “accepting” you. One thing we have learned is, without queer people, the church is not the church. Jesus lived and died outside of the religious establishment because of his preference for people just like you – debated, belittled, marginalized, rejected. And Jesus showed us the very heart of God, so…voilà, God’s very heart is for you.

(Indeed, in the gospels, Jesus’s ire is only ever aimed at Very Religious People who keep trying to box other people out of the blessings God has in mind for all people, or step on people whose defenses are not strong. Ever notice that?)

So there are tons of “allies” at Galileo Church – straight people, cisgender people – who really don’t want to be congratulated for “welcoming” LGBTQ+ people. Mainly, they feel grateful that there are any LGBTQ+ people who will give them a chance, and give Galileo Church a chance. Because let’s face it, the straight-cis church has not often been worthy of your trust. At Galileo the allies finally figured out that Jesus was hanging out on the margins of society, outside the religious establishment, with people just like you, the whole entire time. So if the allies want Jesus, they gotta stand with you. See?

3.  Back on that thing about God’s love being worth it – we get that you might not be thinking that’s true right now. It has cost you dearly to stay in a place, among people, who can’t be trusted to love you completely. And because many of those people carry the name “Christian,” you may be ready to throw in the towel on your own Christian faith. We get that. We seriously do. Some of us have barely hung on to our faith by our fingernails.

unironic supergay.PNG

But we want you to hear us say, from over here in a very safe, very brave, “unironic supergay,” Jesus-loving church, that God’s love is tooooootally worth it. We don’t know anymore how we would live without our #churchfriends. We are so glad we did not give up Jesus to those – well, we’d like to say a certain word here, but this is an open letter – so let’s just say we’re really glad we didn’t give up Jesus to the people who mistakenly thought they owned him. We have found joy in our rediscovered, rehabilitated Christian faith. We wish the same joy for you, so to reiterate: God’s love is real, and for you, and so gosh-darn worth it.

Now this letter has gotten long. If you’ve read this far, thanks. As we wrap it up, can we ask you for a couple of things?

a. Can you share this letter as widely as you can imagine? It needs to get to people, especially all the dearly beloved queer people of ACU, who don’t yet know that God’s love is the realest thing in the world. Post the link to this letter on Facebook (tag Galileo Church); tweet it out (tag Galileo_Church); Insta a photo of a rainbow-unicorn and tag us again (tag Galileo_Church); rinse; repeat. (And if it works for you, share this letter with people who might share financially in Galileo’s mission of “seeking and sheltering spiritual refugees.” We want to keep sharing the news about God’s Niagara Falls of love, and we’re not embarrassed to say, that costs money, and we’d love to have help.)

b. Can you be sure to talk to someone you trust if the controversy over your personhood begins to make you feel hopeless or helpless? The world can’t afford to lose you. Galileo Church can’t bear the thought of missing out on your companionship for this journey. Reach out to us if you need to – we’re here, just down I-20, and we want to be of help.

Again, thanks for reading. More than that: thanks for being. You are so loved. And nothing – no one – will keep us from telling you that, again and again and again. Because “neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). Believe it. And stay fabulous.

In the peace of Christ, and in the power of his living Spirit —

The pastoral staff, Missional Logistics Team, and Spiritual Care Team of Galileo Church; and our co-conspirators and friends:

Rev. Dr. Katie Hays, Galileo Lead Evangelist
Rev. Ryan Felber, Galileo Evangelist for Youth & Public Provocation
Stephanie Hord, Galileo Worship Architect
Corina Sosa, Galileo Missional Logistics Team President
Astreia Yates, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Secretary
Dr. Susan Chiasson, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Co-Treasurer
Katie Owens, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Co-Treasurer
Mark Wikoff, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Big Red Barn Boss
Missy Holtman, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Lady Justice
Aisling Jones, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Procurement Boss
Allison Justus-Smith, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Personnel Caretaker
Kimberly Grogan, Galileo Missional Logistics Team Cecilia B. DeMille
Francine Speer, Galileo Spiritual Care Team
Melina Wikoff, Galileo Spiritual Care Team
Dr. David Grogan, Galileo Spiritual Care Team

After Sutherland Springs Mass Shooting

Galileo Church
from the Homestead
November 11, 2017


Dearly beloved,

I hope that this letter finds you anticipating worship tomorrow with the same eagerness as I. I look forward to joining my voice with yours in praise of our God-Who-Is-Beautiful, remembering the faithful love of Jesus, and celebrating our empowerment by the Spirit of the living Christ.

This week I have spent time in the company of our Spiritual Care Team and with several individual members of the Missional Logistics Team. We have wondered together what it feels like to return to our worship space after the massacre at a Baptist church in central Texas last Sunday. We know there is fodder for real fear; we know that our celebration of “safe space” feels naïve when no public place is truly safe from the gun-powered rage of broken people. We have considered whether Galileo Church should take measures to “protect ourselves,” although we never arrive at a satisfactory solution that would offer absolute protection from the persistent problem of evil.

So here are some things we propose to do in the wake of Sutherland Springs:

1.   We will continue our life together in the spirit of fearlessness that God’s Spirit has granted us, even if it seems naïve. In the face of senseless evil, hope always seems naïve; faith always seems naïve; love always seems naïve. But these are our virtues, embodied in the life and death of the Messiah we follow, vindicated by the Mother/Father of us all in his resurrection, and imbued in us by Jesus’s living Spirit. If we give up our faith, hope, and love, by placing our trust in weaponry and the potential for defensive violence, then we are playing somebody else’s game, telling somebody else’s story of the way the world works. We are committed to the One Story, the one that ends with God Getting Everything God Wants – and toward that end, we are committed to wanting what God wants, and embodying that desire in our habits of life together.

2.   We will continue to give corporate voice to lamentation in worship through our prayers, singing, and preaching. Truth-telling about the chronic tragedy of the world’s brokenness is one of Galileo’s prophetic commitments. We will not ask anyone to pretend that “everything’s fine,” or that they are less (or more) affected by recent events than they actually are. We will not pretend that nothing has happened.


3.   We will maintain the “no guns at Galileo” policy that the Missional Logistics Team (then the Leadership Team) adopted on January 20, 2016. Shortly after that meeting we posted signage in both English and Spanish at Red’s Roadhouse (which was then our worship space) disallowing both open carry and concealed carry of firearms; and those signs came with us to the Big Red Barn. This feels like a decision we made when we were not afraid; and thus it feels like a decision that should be honored. This means we will not ask or allow Galileo folks who have firearms to bring them to worship, and that we will not employ an armed guard to watch over our worship time.

4.   We encourage Galileo worshipers to be familiar with the “run, hide, fight” protocol recommended by the Department of Homeland Security, not only for time spent with Galileo Church, but for time spent in any public place. You can watch videos on YouTube detailing the run-hide-fight strategy, but it’s simple to understand. The very best thing to do if you are endangered in a public space is evacuate. Toward this end, we spent considerable time this week making sure that exits in our worship space are unblocked. And we will continue our weekly process of unlocking available exits on Sunday afternoons, and relocking them when it’s time to go home.

5.   We encourage you to seek out a Spiritual Care Team member, a Missional Logistics Team member, or a member of our pastoral staff if you have any questions, concerns, or criticisms; or if you need to process feelings of anxiety or anger related to Sutherland Springs (or Pulse or Las Vegas…); or if you need to express feelings related to this letter. We are ready to hear from you, and listening carefully from a place of deep love.

Co-conspirators and friends of Galileo Church, you are dearly beloved, first and best of all by the God Who imagined you and called you into being, and Who holds your life in God’s own hands. You are also dearly beloved by the servant-leaders who watch over our life together. May your days and nights be flooded with that knowledge; and may “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” our Lord (Philippians 4:7).

grace and peace,

Katie and the Spiritual Care Team (David, Francine, Harmony, Melina, and Travis)
in consultation with individuals from the Missional Logistics Team

On Covenantal G-Groups

Galileo Church
from the Big Red Barn
June 21, 2017

Dearly beloved,

We hope that this letter finds you strong in the strength that God supplies, purposeful in your discipleship of Jesus, and enjoying the comfort and communion of the Holy Spirit.

This letter is long, we know. If you don’t have time to read it all, please skip to the section called “G-Groups: a new plan”; and also read the section “What to do now.”

Background re: Infrastructure

It’s been about ten days since the servant-leaders of Galileo Church (that’s the Missional Logistics Team, the Care and Feeding Team, and the pastoral staff, plus a few of our littlest kids) gathered for twelve hours (twelve hours! in a row!) to consider how our church might best accomplish all that God has entrusted us to do and be.

It remains our deep commitment to let God show us new things about how God is working in us. We are (mostly) unafraid of disruptive change as long as it serves our reason for being: to seek and shelter spiritual refugees, rally spiritual health for all who come, and strengthen every tender soul with strength to follow Jesus into a life of world-changing service.

You are probably aware that earlier this year we got some strong clues that our infrastructure (which is how we connect people to each other) was not as strong as we thought. That is to say, our ways of connection for the sake of Christian friendship were not (always) promoting strong relationships. Strong relationships would give us a common sense of purpose, could withstand the healthy expression of incommensurable points of view, would promote deepening discipleship of Jesus for every individual, and would build up trust in and among the whole church.

Some parts of our infrastructure were doing that, but not all the parts, all the time. So the servant-leaders convened to talk about infrastructure – in other words, where the metaphorical “house” of Galileo is strong, and where it’s not strong enough. This is especially important because we believe that we will, someday, absolutely go through situations that are as hard as the one we faced together in the winter/spring of 2017. We have a chance now to make some changes that could be vital to our continued survival for the sake of the gospel we exist to share and the refugees who are not here yet, and we’re grateful for that chance.

G-Groups: form follows function

As you likely know, Galileo has one large gathering each week for worship (Sundays at 5 p.m.), and many small gatherings that happen throughout the week at taco bars and coffee shops, in the Big Red Barn, and in people’s homes. These small gatherings were the particular focus of our working retreat, during which we discerned two main purposes for G-Groups.

1.   G-Groups are Communities of Care in which we honor each other’s stories. By practicing habits of listening, narrating, and truth-telling, we learn to trust each other. We share mutual vulnerability. We take turns. We tell our stories. We pray for each other. We allow each person to be exactly who they are, without judgment, without expectation. There is little time for noisy chitchat; G-Groups are more likely to clear the clutter that fills our heads so much of the time. Like Jesus, we take risks in listening and speaking (and being quiet together) so that we can meet people where they are. We each expect that we, in turn, will be met and seen and appreciated and loved.

2.   G-Groups are Communities of Learning in which we deepen our discipleship of Jesus. Together we learn (or relearn) the One Big Story that God has been telling for a long time. We read the Bible. We join in conversation with scripture, with each other, with authors we respect, with our servant-leaders, with our Lead Evangelist. We come with soft hearts and open minds. We want to know what God wants, so we can want what God wants. We look to Jesus as the fullest expression of God’s logic (logos, “Word”, see John 1:14) among us. We do not expect to ever finish this work, but we hope to keep moving closer to the Center all the time. This is rehabilitative work for many of us who originally learned this One Big Story in a way that diminishes and hurts us or our neighbors. This rehabilitative theological exploration takes time, and we’re lucky to be doing it together.

G-Groups: shared expectations

The servant-leaders recognize, however, that G-Groups have been operating without a shared set of expectations about how G-Groups should function to best accomplish the dual purposes of Care and Learning. It is time to be explicit about what we believe G-Groups need to successfully achieve those purposes.

1.   G-Groups need leadership support. Those who lead G-Groups need training, curriculum choices, and ongoing connection with other servant-leaders for counsel and relief. Leaders should usually not also be group hosts; it’s too hard to be in two roles at the same time.

2.   G-Groups need shared hosting. Those who host G-Groups (in their home, or at a public location) need support in this work, and occasional rest from it. G-groupers (people who come to G-Groups, obv!) can share the responsibilities of set-up, clean-up, meal preparation, and attendance reporting. Each G-Group needs a system for taking turns, in part to prevent host burnout; and the church should provide teaching about how to participate as a helpful partner in a G-Group.

3.   G-Groups need consistent attendance in a right-sized group. G-Groups work best when G-groupers are consistent, and when the groups are right-sized. About a dozen adults is the maximum number for most groups. We know that every person can’t come every time, but prioritizing attendance is important for the group’s sense of safety-in-belonging. And that safety-in-belonging is essential for the Care and Learning that are the groups’ dual purposes.

4.  G-Groups need to prioritize Care and Learning in the way they spend their time. Without setting a rigorous, uniform schedule for all G-Groups, we want to communicate the expectation that eating and drinking, checking in, praying, and engaging biblical-theological learning are essential components of each week’s G-Group meeting.

5.   G-Groups need to connect G-groupers to and within Galileo Church. It is our high hope that G-Groups will be conduits of close connection with the whole body of Galileo Church. Galileo is forming (and reforming) a theology, ethos, ethic, and whole-church relational web, and it feels important that everyone who enters Galileo at any point, including G-Groups, be able to participate in our life together. That is not to say that every person in every G-Group should always be present for Sunday worship and other expressions of our life together. But it is an express desire that G-Groups intentionally draw near to the heart of the larger church, rather than drifting toward an isolated existence apart from the larger church.

G-Groups: a new plan

Here is a plan that we hope will form G-Groups that are strong Communities of Care and Learning, while addressing the shared expectations for leaders, hosts, G-groupers, schedules, and whole-church connection.

1.   We’re scheduling quarterly turnover. G-Groups will follow a standardized, quarterly schedule together. New quarters start each December, March, June, and September. G-Groups will meet for 10 weeks, and we’ll take a church-wide Sabbath rest from G-Groups for 3 weeks.

2.   Leaders and hosts will vary from quarter to quarter. Indeed, we hope to recruit enough new leaders and hosts that no one will host or lead a G-Group more than three quarters of the year – two would be even better. Leaders will receive training and support, and shared hosting responsibilities will be communicated to all G-groupers.

3.   G-groupers will sign up for G-Groups every quarter. G-groupers promise to prioritize attendance for 10 weeks. G-Groups that currently hold more than a dozen adults will divide in ways that we hope are natural and freeing. If you are currently in a G-Group that you love, you can (mostly) stay with that group, understanding that it may divide into smaller groups, change its weekly schedule, meet at someone else’se home, and have a different leader.

(This means that we will no longer publish a long list of all the G-Groups and invite people to go to whichever one they like; that system has contributed to overcrowding and inconsistency of attendance, hurting the possibility of those groups engaging in Care and Learning. The G-Group leaders and hosts, the Care and Feeding Team, and the Lead Evangelist (moi!) will work to make sure G-Groups are balanced and beautiful. If we mess that up, let us know, and we’ll work together to fix it.)

4.   Newcomers to Galileo will be offered a G-Group just for them: Galileo 101. We hope that new G-Groups will grow from this shared experience, with leaders and hosts drawn from among those who have been around a little longer.

5.   The Lead Evangelist (moi!) will travel to each G-Group on a rotation. I’ll be available to answer questions about the church, or to talk about the biblical-theological foundations for our life together, or just to get to know each of you better. We imagine that G-Groups might send me a question that they’d like to explore, so that I can prepare a discussion around your questions.

6.   Curriculum and scheduling will be… well, not standardized, but deliberate. We ask that each G-Group choose from Bible study, book study, G-grouper autobiographies, or other curriculum that supports Galileo’s mission and missional priorities; and that each G-Group report to the servant-leaders their ten-week plan each quarter.

7.   Some G-Groups will remain open – i.e. come when you can, any time, no sign-up required – and constant – i.e. no quarterly rotation or Sabbath breaks. Open G-Groups include:

-- G-Sunday, Sundays at 3 p.m. at the Big Red Barn. (Formerly called Sunday School for Grown-Ups.)

-- G-Kids and G-Youth, Sundays at 3 p.m. at the Big Red Barn.

-- G-Coffee, Sundays at 3 p.m. at McDonalds next to the Big Red Barn.

-- Bible & Beer, Tuesdays at 8 p.m. at Fuzzy’s in Mansfield.

-- G-Study, whenever its leaders select a new book and set up a schedule for reading and conversation, at AB Coffee in Mansfield.

Working groups of servant-leaders

The servant-leaders still have work to do to implement the plan we’ve outlined. We’re forming five working groups that will meet during July and August, bringing back their ideas and plans to joint meetings of the Missional Logistics Team and Care and Feeding Team.

1.   Working Group for G-Group Leadership Development and Curriculum Support. How do we train leaders for G-Groups (separate from hosts) who can lead check-ins, Bible studies, book studies, and prayers; and help make connections for pastoral care? Members include Ryan Danny Felber (staff), Allison Justus-Smith (MLT), Nathan Berry (MLT), Melina Madolora Wikoff (CFT), Laura Jean Allen (ordination candidate).

2.   Working Group to Develop Shared Hosting Handbook. Can we (a) recruit and train hosts that are not already hosting, and (b) collect and produce resources for the sharing of host responsibilities in G-groups? I.e. recipes, food purchase ideas, meal service recommendations, clean-up ideas, reimbursement instructions, timing guidelines. Missy Holtman (MLT), Susan Chiasson (MLT), Francine Speer (CFT), Kaytee Bates (CFT), Aisling Jones (MLT), Eleanor Garrett (ordination candidate).

3.   Working Group to Schedule Leaders/Hosts/Locations. Our new quarterly schedule will start September 2017. We’ll recruit leaders and hosts, map locations, and give instruction to the whole church about what’s about to happen. Harmony Weber (CFT), Katie Jane Owens (MLT), Mark Wikoff (MLT), Missy Holtman (MLT), Francine Speer (CFT), Tyler Araki (ordination candidate).

4.   Working Group to Reimagine Care & Feeding Team. What is the role of the CFT in the overall Galileo infrastructure? What is the relationship of CFT members to G-Groups, including and especially G-Groups that are not the primary group for any CFT member? Melina Madolora WikoffKaytee BatesHarmony WeberTravis WeberFrancine Speer (all CFT), Jenny Jacobson (ordination candidate).

5.   Working Group to Plan Integration of Newcomers. What is the best structure, within a quarterly G-group structure, for getting newcomers connected in G-Groups? How do we teach Galileo 101 without insisting, “this is the way we've always done it”? How do we form new groups so that we’re not packing existing groups with more people? Kimberly Grogan (MLT), Astreia Yates (MLT), Corina Sosa (MLT), Ashley Dargai (ordination candidate).

What to do now

Galileo’s servant-leaders hope for three things – nope, four:

1.   That we will be engaged together in prayer for our church’s infrastructure, as it is the framework for all that we are called to do and be together, and we need God’s help and each other’s cooperation to make it work. Pray your thanksgiving for the G-Group leaders and hosts who have opened their hearts and their homes to so many for so long. Pray God’s help for our working groups, for future hosts and leaders, for G-groupers across our whole church who depend on this infrastructure for companionship on their journey.

2.   That all G-Groups (except the Open G-Groups as described above) will take a Sabbath rest in July and August of this year. In other words, don’t meet as a group. Invite each other to dinner, go bowling together, get ice cream with church friends, whatever… but let your group leaders and hosts, and all of our best intentions, relax and breathe for a while.

3.   That each Galileo person (G-person?) will prayerfully consider whether you might be a good leader or host for a G-Group – not forever, but for one quarter at a time, with plenty of training and support. If you’re wondering whether this might be a good fit for you, please let me know and I’ll talk and pray through it with you.

4.   That our church will be ready for a September G-Group Restart with new configurations, new hosts and leaders, and new expectations for how we can be Communities of Care and Learning for each other.

We continually give thanks that God has called us into community with each of you, and that the Spirit of the living Christ is helping us live into the future of God’s imagining. Please let us know what this letter means to you. May God lead us more and more deeply into Communities of Care and Learning, for God’s own sake, and for the sake of the world God loves, and for the sake of the people who are not here yet.

grace and peace,

Katie, with the Missional Logistics Team, the Care and Feeding Team, and the pastoral staff of Galileo Church

After Trump's Inauguration

Galileo Church
February 3, 2017

Dearly beloved,

Grace and peace to you in the name of God our Parent and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m writing this longish letter to communicate some things I’ve been thinking about the life, health, work, and care of our church. I’ve consulted with the church’s servant-leaders (the Missional Logistics Team and the Care and Feeding Team) for help with these thoughts, and I’m grateful for their discerning wisdom.

1. A pastoral observation

We observe that it’s been a grueling social-political season these past few months. Our families, our work places, our schools, and just about every public space are buzzing with conflict, negativity, and alarm. There is an onslaught of news every day, much of it truly frightening. Basic protections and kindnesses we thought we could take for granted, for ourselves and our neighbors, are jeopardized.

Many of us have reported feeling increased anxiety tending toward terror. Many of us convert fear into anger tending toward rage. These feelings can fuel productive action, but they can also lead to spiritual exhaustion, both personal and communal. Spiritual exhaustion often takes the form of overwhelming hopelessness. Negative changes seem sudden; working for positive change seems discouragingly slow.

2. The church’s dilemma

The church in every place and every season is called to be engaged with the world God loves, speaking out against injustice and working diligently to pull God’s future into this present moment, especially on behalf of neighbors who have less voice and more to lose. Galileo Church is committed to having a public voice in the cultural conversation about who has value (every human being!) and how our government demonstrates human value through public policy decisions. We are an activist church, and our voice has gotten stronger over our few years together, with the Spirit’s help.

At the exact same time, the church in every place and every season is called to provide sanctuary from the world’s brokenness. God intends that our communal life would produce peace in our hearts, and strengthen us for our individual lives. We are meant to multiply hope and joy for and with each other – not fake optimism or false cheer, but the deep-down hope and joy that come from remembering that God is in charge, despite all appearances to the contrary, even when we are in distress. This is our work for each other, and we’re pretty good at that, too, with the Spirit’s help.

The dilemma is, sometimes our call to prophecy (justice! engagement! protest!) and our call to pastoral care (kindness, sanctuary, caregiving) are in conflict with each other. Pastoral care can tend toward a kind of slothful escape from reality – not really our tendency. Prophetic engagement can tend toward a kind of alarmist frenzy – oops.

3. Recommendations

Keeping in mind that dilemma, and our collective preference for activism tending toward alarmism, we make the following recommendations.

a.   Be careful with yourself, for the sake of your mental and spiritual health. Absorb news and social media judiciously. Curate your feeds in Facebook, Twitter, etc., so that you’re not assaulted with content that scares or enrages you so often. Listen to or read enough news to stay current, but try not to obsess. Choose a reliable newspaper online and check those headlines, rather than letting social media curate all the news you receive. Try using the “Groups” app for Facebook to stay connected while avoiding the triggery stuff that steals your hope.

b.   Employ your personal social media voice with confidence. Use it to inform each other about things you’ve learned from good, reliable sources. Recommend good reading to your web of connection. Announce your own actions with clarity and pride: “Here’s what I’m reading; here’s the next action I’m taking; here’s what I’m praying for; here’s where I gave money.” Reveal yourself as an engaged Christian who actively loves this world God loves – whatever form that love takes for you.

c.   Let Galileo Church remain a haven from the chaotic urgency of every alarm. We do not mean that we are squelching political conversation at Galileo; we just mean that there are better and worse ways to have that conversation.

Please don’t:

--   Please don’t post each new Trumpian assault in the Galileo Facebook group. Not everybody agrees on everything all the time. (For example, in the case of the Uber CEO who was on the president’s economic council – some of us wanted to boycott Uber, while some of make our living driving for Uber. Another example: some people think all our energy should go toward getting one Cabinet appointment disapproved, while others are much more worried about a Supreme Court appointment. Priorities differ; positions differ; even as we find common ground in wanting to make the world a more just and generous place. Respect the difference.)

--   Please don’t post language that makes it sound like everyone should show their activism in the same way. Some people are energized by public protest; others are praying powerfully at home; others have money to share to shore up front-line justice work; others are powerfully engaged in social media activism. It’s easy to insist that “everybody” or “we all” should show up or write a letter or make a call or give money or retweet – but it’s almost never true or helpful.

--   Please don’t commandeer our weekly G-group conversations with litanies of political/social bad news, to the neglect of other kinds of conversation. People are still seeking work, coming out, grieving loss, celebrating change, loving their kids and dogs and cats; and all these things still need to be shared. Our G-groups are a great place to practice loving the neighbor who is sitting right in front of you. Some of our groups really enjoy political conversation, we know; perhaps they can consider setting aside a designated amount of time for it, then letting it go? We will not run out of bad news to share, it seems. But we can be the boss of how much of it we need on any given day.

Please do:

--   Please do continue diligently in the disciplines of prayer and communal study of the Bible. Our G-groups are a rare opportunity to consult with each other about God’s beautiful vision of the world God wants. Use your time together to do the things churches do – Bible study and prayer, shared over food and drink as a sign of God’s generous provision to us. Consider also whether your group might benefit from reading books that help inform the Christian way of life in the worst of times. Your church leaders have suggestions, if you need some.

--   Please do let your discipleship of Jesus call you into deeper engagement with the world God loves. Follow your passion into activism – protest, boycott, write letters, phone the reps, whatever works for you – and share your experiences through your personal social media, so your church friends can rejoice with you and pray for you.

--   Please do trust the missional priorities of Galileo Church to guide our communal action, developed over several years together, through the Spirit; derived from our strengths and gifts; and flexible enough to shift with our growing life in Christ.

--   Please do trust the theologian-in-residence (that’s me!) to continue to connect Biblical theology to the world as it is, always. The teaching and preaching we share is meant to show us each how to be the light of Christ in and for the world.

--   Please do trust the Missional Logistics Team to call us to communal action when the time is right. We are keeping alert concerning local, state, and national policy issues that connect with our missional priorities. We are seeking opportunities for Galileo Church to exercise its voice all together. If you have ideas about that, you can contact any of the MLT members: Aisling, Allison, Corina, Kaytee B, Malcolm, Nathan, or Susan.

--   Please do trust the Care and Feeding Team to care for you in your distress and to strengthen you for good work in the world. You can call on any of our shepherds for help: Aaron, Francine, Harmony, Jenny, Kyle M, Missy, Ros, or Travis.

4. Confession and benediction:

Your church leaders don’t know yet exactly what Galileo Church is called to do and be in this new season. Most of us have never lived through anything like this. So we are working on it, faithfully and prayerfully. Will you pray for us, as we pray for you?

Receive this blessing from the ancient church, still our promise and our hope:

May the God of peace, God’s own self, sanctify you entirely.
May your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The one who calls us is faithful. God will do this.
(1 Thess. 5:23-24)

grace and peace,

Katie, in consultation with the Missional Logistics Team and the Care and Feeding Team